I do hate to go down the “just one anything” rabbit hole. However if a person can only afford one rifle/pistol/shotgun/22 for the foreseeable future that is sometimes that is where we find ourselves. Craig has a single action .22 revolver but those are really plinking/ small game guns. So we are at the one pistol question.
I think a few key things are important to talk before going into specific models:
Common calibers are common for a reason. Buy a 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45ACP in auto’s or a .38 special/ .357 Magnum in revolvers, maybe .44 Special/ Mag if you need bear medicine. I don’t plan to argue other calibers though I know some are almost as common as the ones I listed.
Use a caliber sufficient for your task at hand. For a primary defensive pistol (vs a hideout) I would not purchase a weapon smaller than 9mm or .38 special. Folks may look at this differently as is their right. Of course a dangerous game gun needs more power. However this is where you have to make choices. A .44mag or 10mm or whatever small enough and light enough for most people to regularly conceal is not one I would want to shoot more than once. Again people may look at things differently.
Common models and calibers are common for a reason. There are oddballs still but that is mostly about personal preference and use. On the other hand some no name one year run guns are great, however some of them are not. This also runs into parts, magazine and accessory availability.
Of course what you are going to do (as well as your build and budget)
matters. A pistol that is going to live in the house or truck can be as
big as you want. A pistol carried for bear protection should have a
round sufficient for those tasks. That being said I think that once a
few really rural folks are factored out the answers are pretty similar
for most people.
That being said I think it is important for a single pistol scenario to keep an eye toward concealed carry. A pistol you can’t reasonably conceal fails at its primary job, being the gun you can have all the time. Maybe you do not want to carry today but there could be a crime wave or a disaster or whatever that changes your mind.
Now onto specific models.
Personally I recommend the Glock 19 to Craig or pretty much anybody looking for a good all around pistol. In my opinion (and a lot of other much smarter people’s) it strikes a great compromise between the shootability and round count of a service sized handgun and the conceal ability of a smaller pistol. Personally I can conceal one easily wearing cargo shorts and a polo or light short sleeved button up shirt. Also they are as (or more) reliable than any competitor and are one of the most common pistols out there which means parts/ mags/ accessories are more available than most if not all competitors. Any place that sells ammo has 9mm and any place that has gun stuff has Glock stuff. Also the Glock offers a lot of gun for your money. You can buy the service pistol which is arguably the standard all others are judged by for somewhere between $ 400-500 bucks. That being said I can see how reasonable people may differ.
It is worth noting that everything I said about the Glock could be said about the Springfield XD or Smith and Wesson MP series. The only exception is that they are slightly less common than Glocks if just because they are fairly new to the market. Due to this they have fewer mags/ parts/ accessories floating around though maybe not enough to matter,.
If you want more power .40 S&W is a good answer. Not necessary but if it makes you happy then rock on. It is a darn good round though a bit more expensive to shoot than 9mm. Also it is snappy or maybe even unpleasant in smaller/ lighter pistols.
Personally I would be inclined to stick with a double stack magazine. Yeah they are thicker but the trade off is a whole bunch more bullets. For reference a Glock 19 holds 15 plus 1 in the pipe while single stack compact 9mm’s will usually hold 6 or 7 plus 1. Personally I am not so sure it is a trade off I would be willing to make. Then again you could argue these new subcompact/ compact single stack 9′s (and .40′s) like the Keltech, S&W Shield, Ruger LC9 and (though not new really) various Kahr’s are in competition not with double stack compact 9mm’s but with subcompact single stack .380′s I would say a 9 beats a .380 any day, especially if the size and weight are close.
As to revolvers for an all around gun I would get a 3″ .357 magnum like a Ruger SP 101 or whatever model S&W is comparable. Snubby revolvers are difficult to shoot well and as such IMO not a good all around choice. On the other end of the spectrum a large framed .357 Magnum like a S&W Model 19 or Ruger GP 100 is a great pistol but probably too big for concealed carry without a coat. While a snubby .357 to carry and a 4 or 6 inch wheel gun for the house/ field is a good combo neither stand alone all that well so we are left with the 3″.
For Craigs specific situation:
Do not get a pocket pistol for your only pistol. A tiny .380 is a great little carry piece to have as part of your battery if you have other pistol(s) to use as a house gun or for other defensive purposes. As a
If a Glock 19 is not a viable option I would look at the Keltech PF 9. Personally I do not have any experience with this pistol but NutnFancy seems to like them which is a pretty solid endorsement. Also since the cost is around $ 250-300 that really helps in the cash area. You could probably get a PF 9, a holster, an extra set of magazines, a couple boxes of 9mm defensive ammo and a few boxes or maybe even 500 rounds of 9mm FMJ to stash away for around $ 500.
The PF 9 is certainly small enough to carry regularly in fairly light summer clothing. They are single stack so the round count is low but there is the trade off to thinness/ concealability. Sure there are probably some downsides but for a new $ 250-300 semi automatic pistol that is to be expected, you can’t have everything.
To be honest I am pondering a potential role one might have in my
battery. Though I have to see one side by side with a Glock 19 to really
Regardless of the specific pistol I would recommend a corrosion resistant finish for those who will be in and around water, doubly so if it is salt water. This means stainless steel or a tough finish like Tenifer or something comparable. I would not purchase a blued gun, it is just asking for problems.
Anyway those are my thoughts on that. Simply put buy a Glock 19 and everything will be alright. If for whatever foolish reason you decide not to buy a Glock 19 I hope we have hit on some things for you to consider. I think the comments section could get fun.